Give locals priority access to Hamilton's crowded trails and waterfalls: councillor

One city councillor says locals should have priority over out-of-towners when it comes to visiting Hamilton's trails, parks and waterfalls.

Mayor worries parochialism would discourage out-of-town visitors - and Hamilton wants those

One Hamilton councillor wants to look at giving locals priority access to Hamilton Conservation Authority properties. (Sheryl Nadler/CBC)

A city councillor says locals should have priority when it comes to visiting Hamilton's trails, parks and waterfalls, which have been crowded with out-of-towners in recent years. 

John-Paul Danko, councillor for Ward 8 (central Mountain), wants the city to look into giving residents "priority direct access" to Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) amenities. That includes trails and conservation areas. 

The popularity of these areas is growing, the HCA says. In the process, Danko says, families with traditions that date back generations are getting crowded out of using them.

"I feel like a lot of those residents are being crowded out," Danko said.

Danko broached the subject during a budget meeting Tuesday. All four Hamilton-area conservation authorities presented their levy increases. The HCA levy increased by 1.5 per cent, or $65,700, over last year.

Hamilton pays 99.4 per cent of the HCA's municipal levy, or $4,429,100. Puslinch township pays $28,600, or 0.6 per cent.

Danko said he'll bring a motion to a future general issues committee meeting.

His idea didn't have a lot of support Tuesday.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said Hamilton wants to encourage out-of-town visitors. And if Hamilton prioritized access for locals, other conservation authorities might too. That would hinder Hamiltonians from visiting, say, the Niagara Gorge.

"The moment we start this process, there would be a trickle-down effect," Eisenberger said. So the city should be "very cautious."

The HCA does offer an annual membership pass that gives members rewards and discounts.

The city and HCA have adjusted in recent years with the surging popularity of Hamilton's waterfalls. The authority has implemented a shuttle bus for Spencer Gorge and Webster's Falls. In 2016, it also increased parking rates.

The city also saw an increase in rope rescues at local waterfalls, although a 2017 city crackdown on trespassing seems to have reduced those numbers.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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